Hebron (al-Kahlil in Arabic), Palestine...Tuesday, October 18, 2016
Palestine has been reduced to a small fraction of the area established by the United Nations in 1947, and of the "Green Line" agreed to at the end of the 1948 "Arab-Israeli War".
The West Bank is now divided into 3 sections: A, B, and C...and then there is Gaza. Israeli illegal settlements are dividing the West Bank in order to separate and isolate each section, one from another. When an Israeli settlement goes up, then more land is appropriated for a security zone, roads are blocked off with checkpoints, or roads are closed entirely, thus preventing farmers from getting to their olive groves. To get from one place to another may take Palestinians hours to go around the settlement's, security zones, and checkpoints instead of minutes. The Israeli settlements are linked by superhighways on which Palestinians are not allowed.
The excuses for restriction are always the same, for "security" or for the Palestinians' "protection". Nothing is called what it is. Israel is squeezing Palestinians into small isolated ghettos, just like Gaza. It is reminiscent of the Jewish ghettos in Poland during World War 2.
Israel has total control over Palestinians' lives, and Palestinians are totally dependent on Israel: water, electricity, imports, exports, building permits, travel, etc...they can do nothing without Israel's approval. It is a slow grinding away of Palestine, and constant harassment and humiliation for Palestinians making their lives miserable.
It no longer shocks me when men tell me that they have been in Israeli prison and tortured. My friend Mahmoud was in prison for 3 years. His offense was to participate in organizing non-violent resistance at his school, where he was studying dentistry. He was also posting non-violent resistance on Facebook. I have heard stories such as Mahmoud's many times now.
On December 16, 2012 two Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) soldiers knocked on the door of Mahmoud's family home in the village of Burqin, not far from Jenin. His father answered the door and the soldiers announced that they wanted to question Mahmoud for a few hours. They took him to a checkpoint where many other IOF soldiers were waiting. He was lite up like a Christmas tree with red laser beams from the guns pointing at him.
At the checkpoint Mahmoud had his hands and feet tied and he was blindfolded. From there he was taken to an unknown location, striped naked and tortured with "enhanced interrogation". We should all be familiar with those techniques by now, no thanks to Dick Cheney, George Bush and the CIA. Mahmoud was threatened with death, small knife cuts where inflicted all over his body, he was forced into stress positions, etc.
Mahmoud was questioned for 3 days without any sleep. Then he was held in a very small, very cold room with no windows and a blinding bright yellow light that was never turned off. He was not allowed to contact anybody and his family was frantic with worry.
After several months he was taken before a military judge and sentenced to Majedo Prison indefinitely. Mahmoud said the food was very bad and he lost about 50 pounds in the first several months. The medical clinic was unsanitary and, as he said, if one went to it with the flu he came back with hepatitis B.
Israeli's cruel prisons are a money making scheme, too. Prisoners must pay for everything and while they are in prison they run up a big debt. Prisoners are severely punished for minor or no reasons. Family visits are infrequent and short, but they are a day long journey for the family. When the family arrives at the prison the family is harassed and humiliated by the guards. Sometimes the family is told that they will not be allowed to see Mahmoud because he is being punished.
Then one day after 3 years Mahmoud was told that he was being released. At first he did not believe them. But then he was taken to Salem checkpoint and released. His family had to borrow $8,000, a huge sum for Palestinians, to pay the debt Mahmoud had run up in prison. His entire village turned out for a big celebration that day.
Mahmoud has now returned to dental school. He hopes to finish his studies this year and become a dentist, but he says his job opportunities are bleak. Many Palestinian doctors, lawyers and dentists have to find a job driving a taxi cab, menial labor, or return to farming.
Mahmoud says his dream would be to get a scholarship to go to dental school in the USA so that he could specialize in orthodontics. He says he would like to work in the US for awhile to accumulate some money so that he could return to Palestine, get married and start his own family.
I have heard many stories like Mahmoud's. Yet the Palestinians do not give up their resolve to end the occupation and to free Palestine eventually. They say that it will happen but only God knows when or how.
Palestinians have told me that they are committed to non-violence resistance. They do not consider burning tires and throwing rocks at armored personnel carriers, tanks and heavily armed soldiers as a violent protest, even though Netanyahu calls stone throwers terrorists.